PEPPERELL — There wasn’t as much traffic 32 years ago when Groton native Leo Lamy moved to town from Lowell, but otherwise he said his decision has proved nothing but better and better as the years go by.
“I plan to stay here. I love the town. It’s grand,” the Franklin Street resident said.
Like others before and after him, Lamy believes in helping his community. He has spent the last three decades proving that.
He retired from the Fire Department in December after 29 years on the job, leaving a legacy of quiet trustworthiness and a solid work ethic. A bronze bust of a firefighter, given him by his men, is mute testimony to that. Affixed to the bust are plaques whose dates spell out his service record with Engine Company One.
A graduate of Groton High School, Lamy was drafted into the Army in January 1965. He is a Vietnam veteran, having served as an air frame repair specialist with the 1st Cavalry Division, Airmobile, from August 1965 to October 1966 in An Khe as a Specialist 5. He is a member of VFW Post 3291 and, like other Vietnam vets, remembers being spat upon in Boston on his return home.
“That was the time of our first major commitment,” Lamy explained. “We spent the first six months in shelter hats (ponchos draped over sticks to form tents) eating 1943 C-rations,” Lamy said. “I still have my boots with Vietnam mud on them.”
Army training in metal repair on helicopters set him up for his career in sheet-metal working. Lamy is employed at McGarvan Engineering in Lowell. It was his employment that caused him and his bride of 37 years, Jane, to start their life together in that city.
They share two children, daughter Cynthia, 35, of Shirley, and son Brian, 32, of Leominster, and two grandchildren, Caleb and Abigail.
Lamy said it was his former neighbor, one-time fire Capt. Carl Shattuck, who convinced him to join the Fire Department and he found, as promised, that he truly enjoyed it.
“Dick Malley was chief then,” he remembers, “and the shaky Foster Street station and Ernie Harrington going in to straighten out the vehicles after a fire. I’ve been in Company One the whole time.”
Company One has gone through some changes of late. Long-time Capt. Peter Shattuck has been promoted to deputy fire chief, former Lt. Milton Blood is now captain and firefighter Dana Franzek is now lieutenant in the wake of Lamy’s retirement.
“Milt will make a good captain and I’m happy that Dana got my old job,” Lamy said, adding that Franzek’s son, Dereck, has just become a firefighter. “It’s good to see youth. We need young guys.”
“Peter was good to work for and very knowledgeable,” Lamy said. “He knows how to get people motivated. I’m one who’d just as soon do the work. I’m not comfortable giving orders, but the guys seemed to like what I stood for.”
Lamy can see a full-time Fire Department in the future due to the demands of residents who purchase today’s $500,000 to $600,000 homes.
“I always thought we were doing good at response time but there’s a problem getting guys for calls despite a lot of them working on the Highway Department,” he said. “I almost think it’ll go strong chief (although) you always worry about change.”
He would recommend firefighting as “very rewarding. I don’t mind the training but at 63 it’s a little tiring,” he said. “The hoses are getting heavy.”
“I don’t think I changed when I went from firefighter to lieutenant. A lieutenant fills in for the captain and gets problems escalated to him in the chain of command. I felt the men trusted me,” Lamy said, “No job is too small, be it rolling hose or firefighting.”
“I agree (with fellow retiree Al Harris) the ladies auxiliary is excellent and unsung,” he said. “The department is a family, sometimes bickering but solid and together when the job comes. I’ll miss the guys but not 2:30 a.m. at five below zero or sweating to death in summer,” Lamy said. “I’ll be there if needed. I told them that when I left, even if they don’t need me.”